Through God’s mercy and providence, I began a study of Psalm 90 just prior to my mother’s recent death.
The Psalm strengthened me through the grief process and helped me to understand some lessons I had never before considered. Principally, is death purely a punishment, or did God institute death as a way to teach human beings a valuable lesson?
As I studied, it occurred to me man’s problem has always been to think of himself as God. This began in the garden of Eden when man’s transgression was prompted by Satan’s temptation, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it (the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” (Genesis 3:5 NASU).
When Moses fell by transgression, it was chiefly because he placed himself on a par with God. We tend of make a very big deal about what he did with his rod to bring water to the rebellious Israelites, but what he said in the process is very important: “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10). God told Moses his mistake was not “to treat me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel.” Moses was guilty of not making a distinction. God is the only God and should be identified as such.
Moses is the author of Psalm 90, and it is interesting that he made its subject God’s eternality and man’s frailty. Moses made the following points:
- “Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (verse 2). This is a significant distinction between man and God. God is immortal, man is mortal. That man lives only a finite time is instruction that there is only one God and man is not such an entity.
- “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it passes away…” Repeated in 2 Peter 3:8, this simply refers to the truth that time has no meaning with God. It matters a great deal to man, but not to the eternal. This is another distinction.
- “As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years… we soon fly away.” Again, God’s eternality and man’s frailty is made evident. God will be in the world after we’re dust. He exists long after we leave this bodily form.
- “So teach us to number our days…” Here’s the verse that caused me to stop and think about death as an instruction. God doesn’t say that we should consider death as a punishment. We should understand, while we are in this body, the distinction between us and God. If we understand that, we can use that knowledge to keep ourselves from sin. Isn’t it the case, after all, that almost every sin we commit begins with the thought that we should be able to rule our lives as God, knowing both good and evil?
Death was presented to man as a consequence of his own actions. God, however, means death to be a process in our spiritual education. He presents it to us so that he can, “teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”